My first encounter with Angkor Wat was beyond mind-blowing, especially since I’ve always felt a strong connection to history and love experiencing cultures through their architecture. These temples aren’t just old buildings under restoration; they’re an amazing architectural feat of a once great Asian civilization. As for Angkor Wat in particular, I always knew it would be part of our explorations in Asia, but I wasn’t sure when. I was freaking out with excitement when we finally decided to make it work and go last August. In typical Monica-travel fashion, I didn’t exactly go with a plan, and the bulk of my research was done on the 2 hour flight to Phnom Penh. With the complex housing a hundred temples, I wondered, how in the world could we do this trip justice in only three days? Luckily, reading all the guide books I could helped paint a picture of what we needed to see in our precious time there.
Angkor Wat takes the cake of exquisite history and story telling in the form of architecture and archaeology, with this staggering show of cultural and religious art being truly one of the wonders of the world. What many people don’t know is that Angkor Wat as a whole spans almost 10,000 acres, and believed to have had 1 million inhabitants in its heyday. This amazing expanse of land was the largest city up until the Industrial Revolution. It’s truly immense.
Our first stop on the grand circuit was Preah Khan (meaning Sacred Sword), and it was the perfect introduction to the dizzying array of temples. Although we visited during peak tourism months for the area, Preach Khan was calm in comparison to other hotspots on the circuit, allowing us to walk around and take pictures in peace. The detailed carvings and moss covered stone narrow passages were truly remarkable. It’s the most authentic way to glimpse into the Khmer empire. There are no restrictions at this site, just you and the stone with its story to tell.